State We're In: Washington
A Civics Text by the League
of Women Voters of Washington Education Fund
About Us >> Our
Officers >> Our History
WHAT IS THE LEAGUE
- MISSION...The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan
political organization, encourages the informed and active
participation of citizens in government, and influences
public policy through education and advocacy.
- MEMBERSHIP...The League is open to any person who subscribes
to the purpose and policy of the League.
Voting Members. Persons at least 16 years of age who join the League
shall be voting members of local Leagues, state Leagues, and of the LWVUS; (1)
those who live within an area of a local League may join that League or any
other local League; (2) those who reside outside the area of any local League
may join a local League or shall be state members-at-large; (3) those who have
been members of the League for 50 years or more shall be life members excused
from the payment of dues.
- There are over 90,000 members of
the League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS).
There are Leagues in every state, Puerto Rico, Washington,
DC. and the Virgin Islands.
- ORGANIZATION...The structure of the League parallels
the representative system of government under which we
live. Our local, state and national governments are dependent
one upon the other; the base is the individual citizen.
The several League levels are also interdependent. Members
determine the policies and program of all league levels.
Membership is simultaneous on all three levels where applicable.
- NONPARTISANSHIP...The League acts in support of, or
in opposition to, selected governmental issues which its
members have studied. It does not support or oppose candidates,
factions or political parties. League members, as individuals,
are urged to work in the political party of their choice.
In order to protect the League's nonpartisanship policy,
guidelines regarding the political activities of the Board
of Directors are reviewed frequently.
- FINANCING...The League is a non-profit organization
financed by member dues and contributions, and through
community and national finance drives which enable public-spirited
citizens to help support the work of the League. Dues
are collected at the local League level with Per Member
Payment (PMP's) assessments made by National and State
Leagues upon the local Leagues. A tax deductible LWV Education
Fund can be used for publications and Voter Service information.
WHAT WE DO
- VOTERS SERVICE/CITIZEN INFORMATION...Activity is directed
toward encouraging citizens to register and vote and to
participate in government and politics. The League does
this by sponsoring debates and providing nonpartisan information
about voting procedures, candidates and ballot issues.
Voter Service projects are eligible for funding through
LWV Education Fund.
- STUDY...One of the reasons for the political effectiveness
of the League is its reputation for thorough study. Complete
facts, the pros and cons, are researched before consensus
and action. Members study and discuss the issues in small
units so that everyone has an opportunity to express an
- ACTION...The League of Women Voters is an action group.
However, it may take action only on issues which have
been extensively studied and on which the members are
agreed. When the League has a position on any issue, separate
material is published to promote the League's stand. This
is not funded by the Education Fund to ensure the distinction
between League Action and Voters Service information.
- providing information to members
- and the public
- building public opinion
- supporting or opposing legislation
Action methods include
- testifying at public hearings
- use of public forums and the media
- panel discussions
- League publications
- letters to public officials
It is the responsibility of each League Board to direct
and plan League Action which may include "calls for
Action" to the membership.
YOU AS A MEMBER MAY
- Elect officers and directors
- Attend unit meetings
- Volunteer for resource committees
- Attend general meetings
- Volunteer for service committees
- Participate in program selection on all League levels
- Help make the voice of the League heard
The League structure is designed to give members every
chance to voice their views. Because League is a grassroots
organization, every member is encouraged to become a member
of a study or action committee. This is the key to League
The League's program consists of governmental issues chosen
by the members for concerted study and action. At program-making
meetings the members discuss their ideas for local, state
and national program. The proposals are submitted to the
Board. Individual members may also submit proposals. The
Board considers all proposals and then presents a recommended
program for consideration at the annual meeting or convention.
Final decision on state and national program is made by
delegates to respective biennial conventions. The recommended
program requires a majority vote for adoption. A non-recommended
item may also be placed before the delegates; it usually
requires a larger vote for adoption.
- Criteria which must be considered when selecting program
- The issue must be one on which governmental action is
- The issue must fall within the Principles of the League.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
At each level of League, Boards are elected by the membership
to manage the activities of the League. There are usually
five elected officers: President, two Vice Presidents, Secretary
and Treasurer. The remainder of the Board (depending on
the size of the League) is composed of a number of elected
and appointed directors. Each member of the Board has a
portfolio (a specific area of responsibility). - Study,
Program, Voters Service, Finance, Membership, Legislative,
Organization, Public Relations, Publications,
Voter Registration, Observers.
Established to study a public issues of League concern,
a study committee researches, clarifies, and develops a
focus for League consideration. It then becomes a resource
committee with responsibility to present facts to the members.
In small Leagues the material is presented directly to the
membership. In large Leagues where there are several units,
the material is presented at a briefing session which is
attended by representatives from each unit. They in turn
present the material to the members of their unit.
There are also committees for other categories of League
work (Voters Service, Membership, Budget, etc.). These committees
carry out the balance of the League's work.
The League maintains observers at meetings of various local,
regional, state and national governmental bodies. Observers
do not speak for the League but attend these meetings to
listen, learn and to make factual reports of the proceedings.
The League's reputation as a civic monitor has been earned
by the Observer Corps of the local Leagues.
Voters Service and results of League studies and League
action are conveyed to the public via the printed and electronic
media. Press conferences, public service announcements and
programs on radio/television, educational material in the
form of brochures and pamphlets, statements given to governmental
bodies, speakers bureaus-and beyond this, the members' enthusiasm
as they build community respect for League opinion; meeting
friends, fellow employees, potential contributors-all are
a part of the plans and techniques to promote the League's
The League has a large and growing list of educational
publications on local, state and national issues. Highly
respected, League publications are the result of thorough
- The League of Women Voters Believes...
- in representative government and in the individual liberties
established in the Constitution of the United States.
- that democratic government depends upon the informed
and active participation of its citizens and requires
that governmental bodies protect the citizen's right to
know by giving adequate notice of proposed actions, holding
open meetings and making public records accessible.
- that every citizen should be protected in the right
to vote; that every person should have access to free
public education which provides equal opportunity for
all; and that no person or group should suffer legal,
economic or administrative discrimination.
- that efficient and economical government requires competent
personnel, the clear assignment of responsibility, adequate
financing and coordination among the different agencies
and levels of government.
- that responsible government should be responsive to
the will of the people; that government should maintain
an equitable and flexible system of taxation, promote
the conservation and development of natural resources
in the public interest, share in the solution of economic
and social problems which affect the general welfare,
promote a sound economy and adopt domestic policies which
facilitate the solution of international problems.
- that cooperation with other nations is essential in
the search for solutions to world problems, and that the
development of international organization and international
law is imperative in the promotion of world peace.
- League Lingo
- ACTION...the means used for stimulating
interest in giving information and urging support of
League positions: press conferences, lobbying, letters,
- BOARD...The Board of Directors
- BRIEFING...meeting at which the resources
committee briefs non-committee members.
- CALL TO ACTION...request from a Board
for specific action on a program item.
- CONCURRENCE...agreeing with another League
or Leagues' consensus.
- CONSENSUS...substantial agreement of
the members developed through study and discussion.
- ILO...Inter-League Organization; a group
of local Leagues who have joined to study and act on
- ITEM/ISSUE...any specific topic on the
list of program; local, state or national.
- LEGISLATIVE DAY...LWV day in Olympia
- lobbying opportunity for all members.
- LWVUS...the League of Women Voters of
the United States
- LWVWA...the League of Women Voters of
- MAL...Member-at-Large; a member who resides
outside the area of a local League, and receives state
and national publications.
- NONPARTISAN...describes the League's
political policy of neither supporting nor opposing
political parties or candidates.
- PMP...Per Member Payment; portion of
member's dues which goes to support LWVUS and LWVWA.
- PORTFOLIO...area of responsibility of
each Board member.
- POSITION/STAND...body of opinion expressed
in the consensus upon which action can be taken.
- PROVISIONAL LEAGUE...newly formed group
working on limited program as it learns procedures and
techniques and works toward becoming a local League.
- TRY...They Represent You. Each local
League publishes a yearly directory of public officials
in their districts.
- UAL...a group of Members-at-Large (MAL's)
who meet together as a Unit-at-Large prior to becoming
a Provisional League.
- UNIT/COMMITTEE...small discussion group
which meets regularly to discuss and act upon League
- VOTER...newsletter issued by local and state
Leagues in print or electronic format.